Troop increase expected as Trump makes national TV appearance on Monday night
Developments on Day 213 of the Trump Administration:
Trump to Announce Troop Build-Up in Afghanistan
Hoping to move discussion beyond his approach to white supremacy, Donald Trump will announce a US troop build-up in Afghanistan.
Trump will appear on national TV to confirm an escalation of several thousand troops in addition to about 13,000 US personnel still in the country after almost 16 years of conflict.
The Administration has been carrying out a review for months of the American position, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calling for an increased deployment. Trump has also been under pressure from legislators to announce a policy, as the Taliban have taken more territory and now control almost half of Afghanistan.
But the timing of the announcement, following Trump’s meeting with top advisors on Friday, may have been influenced by the furor after the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville on August 12 and Trump’s statements that appeared to excuse the display of anti-Semitism, racism, swastikas, and Nazi-style salutes.
On Friday — the same day of the final Afghanistan meeting — the White House announced the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, the hard-right “nationalist” who reportedly encouraged Trump’s outburst on Tuesday trying to shift blame over Charlottesville to the “alt-left”.
Bannon had waged a battle against Mattis’s proposals for troop escalation, pushing the alternative of “privatizing” the US intervention by handing it to people like Eric Prince — an informal advisor to the Trump campaign and the founder of Blackwater, the controversial firm involved in the US occupation of Iraq after the 2003 war.
A Decision — but a Strategy?
“The President has made a decision,” Mattis told reporters on Sunday night. “I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous.”
He did not give details, saying Trump wanted to outline the new approach himself.
Mattis was given authority in June to send up to 3,900 additional troops to Afghanistan, expanding the military’s advisory mission and support of Afghan forces with artillery and airpower. However, the Defense Secretary withheld any steps until the Administration agreed on a broader strategy.
It is still unclear what that strategy is. There has been no indication, beyond a troop increase, of any American political, economic, or social operations to bolster the legitimacy of the Afghan Government or to find an accommodation — if one is desired — with the Taliban.
Administration staff said only that steps by the Afghan Government, such as “doing more to fight corruption”, would be necessary.
Pentagon and Congressional sources have also said that US military aid to Pakistan may come under scrutiny. Washington believes Islamabad is not doing enough to deter attacks in and near Afghanistan’s capital Kabul by the =Pakistan-based Haqqani network.